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Its your virtual biz bestie Romaine Brown Palmer and I am coming to you with a hot topic in light of everything going on in the world today. With COVID-19 being on the tip of everyone's tongue and mind, employers around the country are having conversations about how to ensure continuity of business while also keeping their team safe and limiting potential exposure.
For those of us who have been working remotely for years, and have worked through hurricanes, snow storms, sick days and the like, we have to help our brothers and sisters out who have not ever had that luxury.
If you live in an area that has been declared as being in a State of Emergency, you want to start thinking about how to keep your business running, while also keeping your team safe. A healthy business = a healthy team.
While it may seem that issuing everyone laptops and allowing them to work from home may be the trick, there’s a little bit more to it than that. Here are my top 10 tips for preparing your team to work from home.
1. Set Expectations:
Your team are adults and so you would assume that you don’t have to say this, but it's important to set the parameters for working from home. What time you expect them to be online, what are their check in points, what to do to take lunch breaks, how to log their hours, how to submit their hours and who is their point of contact is for these tasks, are all important parameters to set BEFORE you send everyone home.
It takes an incredible amount of discipline to work from home. For some of us, working from home, as luxurious as it may seem, can actually make it harder to get through the business day. The laundry, the cooking, the TV shows we have been meaning to watch, our beds! It's all pretty tempting when everything that makes home - home - is right there and while everyone can manage themselves, you don’t want your business to suffer unnecessarily because expectations were not set.
2. Ensure connectivity will not be an issue
Internet speed is not everyone's top priority at home. Have your employee's run a speed test to confirm they have enough bandwidth to support the work you do.
There's a difference between what speed is needed for casual internet browsing and watching Netflix, vs what is needed to host conference calls and download large files.
If your employee does not have sufficient bandwidth, you have options. Ask them to call their provider and check if they are able to do a temporary increase in internet speeds, which you will pay the difference, as well as if they can send a technician out to split their Wi-Fi for the home.
A friend of mine on IG recently brought this to my attention - you want to be sure your employee is working on your company tasks on a private network, separate from what their family and guests use.
Follow @MuleManagement on Instagram for more security tips and I will link the post with additional security tips for working from home below.
3. Prep Your Systems
There are 4 pillars that make up virtual operations:
Your CRM - Customer Relationship Management
Your Cloud Storage - such as Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive
Your Communication - your email, your phone system and your live chat
Project Management - your day to day task management.
This is the time to ensure that your systems are 1. Up to date, 2. Everyone has the appropriate access and 3. Everyone knows how to use them efficiently. If you have that team member who always leans over to ask you where this or that file is, this is the time to get them up to speed so that they do not hold up production.
Grab this FREE Resource to outline all your company systems and how to use them!
4. Establish Communication Channels
This is especially important if you work in a highly collaborative team that’s used to just being able to walk over to each other and ask questions. Establishing a live chat account - like SLACK- will be key to ensuring your team does not lose that valuable collaboration.
Also ensuring your conference call system has been established for those daily, weekly team calls. Systems such, Zoom conference or Uberconference or even free conferencecall.com. If your team is not familiar with using these, have a team training to review all of these before everyone starts working from home.
5. Check your tech!
Have your in-house IT or hire an IT person to do a tech audit and ensure everyone's laptop is in good working order, has an active antivirus installed and everyone knows how to properly connect to their wifi before they go home with them. You want to ensure all your assets are tagged and logged with their serial number. You also want to ensure your employees sign off on receiving their laptops in good working order.
Now is also a good time to review with your team what your technology use company standards are. The assigned laptops are for business - not for late night Hulu or Netflix in bed!
6. Set up for Password Management
This one slips through the cracks a lot - you want to set a standard for password management and storage if you have not already done so. This is something you will also want to discuss with IT on what they recommend and who should be in charge of this task, including managing the master account. Systems such as LastPass are great but definitely have a conversation with IT about what's best for your company.
7. Prepare Your Server Based Companies
If you are in a server environment and your team will be using their home computers to remote into their desktops.
Be sure to check with your team that their home computer is in good shape and can support the connection. If this is not the case, you have options, there are companies you can rent laptops from to assign to your team to work from home during this time.
If you have not ever set up a remote atmosphere for your team, now is the time to call in a professional to get this done!
8. Figure Out Your Phone System
Most of us have switched over to VOIP -voice over internet provider solutions for our business. Now is the time to reach out to your provider and find out if there is an app [desktop is preferred] that can be downloaded so everyone can keep their extensions and there are no interruptions.
Conduct training on how to use the system and ensure your team is on the same page and knowledgeable about how to handle transfers and outbound calls.
If that is not possible, see about transferring calls to your employee cell phones and offer to cover the cost of their service for the time they are home.
9. Figure Out the procedures for NON-Cloud Based systems & Tasks.
Some of you may work in environments where there are non-cloud based systems and daily tasks that you need access to be able to handle them.
Things such as mail management. Setting protocol for where the mail will be routed, who is going to scan and send everyone pertinent mail and ensuring that the person understands how mail is supposed to be routed and managed is crucial.
Look at all areas of your business for any gaps and create standard to fix them.
10. Communicate any changes from the norm to your clients.
Remember that your customers are in this with you as well. Communicate any changes to your procedures or anything out of the norm. Provide them with an overview of what you have put in place to ensure it is business as usual, including addressing any confidentiality and security questions that may apply to their account.
Communication is key and it's in your best interest to get ahead of the questions and empower your team with answers before any concerns arise.
I hope this has been helpful for you. I know it seems like its going to take a lot to get ready, however you could also look at this as an opportunity. Could this be a new direction of your company?
Could your team be ready to make this a permanent change, which could help you cut down on overhead. This is a great time to find out.
If you would like to learn more about working with me one on one to help your team get ready or provide systems training on any of the virtual tools I just shared you can email me at email@example.com or complete the contact form.
We are all in this together as we figure out what the next few weeks or months hold for us.
Hopefully, this will be over soon but its better to be safe and prepared than sorry.
Thanks for hanging with me!
Romaine Brown Palmer
Your Virtual Biz Bestie